Sunday, 25 September 2011

A is for...Art Adams

The first time I became aware of the work of Art Adams was the above image from the first part of a three parter replacing the Marvel's First Family with the four big Anti Heroes of the time (with Punisher turning up for a cameo in the last part).
Clearly over-ordered, London's Fantastic Store above the Virgin Megastore had decorated the walls with it (and wouldn't sell me a copy).
Art Adams could take all these grimacing, smoking, swearing, violent character and always keep it fun.
Adams' first big break into comics was the 1985 series Longshot which made a big splash stylistically but was still fairly wonky. The level of detail and texture at the time matched by awkward anatomy and psychotic facial expressions (which evidently sent the message to Rob Liefeld that there comes a point where you can just stop practicing).
At seven issues long to this day it still represents Adams' largest body of work and for many his most memorable.
The time needed to get the finish that Adams wanted and became known for straight away led to him becoming a cover and annuals kind of guy. The list of special projects and annuals includes 1xAction Comics, 1x Excalibur,1x New Mutants,4x Uncanny X-Men, 2x Gumby and 1x Spder-Man.
For my part I'm going to have to stick my neck out and say my favourite is Monkeyman and O'Brien which kicked off as back up strips in the original long time friend Mignola's Hellboy miniseries (the plan being that Hellboy would be the back up in the M&O'B mini series which took so long to come out that Mignola had to move on to other things).
The series is so clearly a labour of love, infused with everything that Adams loves, monsters, apes, cosmic sci-fi, Kirby comics that I find it hard to resist although there are in total 3 issues, a two part Gen13 crossover and a few short strips. The work, particularly the short strips in black and white, is pretty spectacular.

I can only assume that after experiencing no massive success with the property Adams returned to covers for the rest of the 90s only returning to sequential work for a few
pages here and there.
His next major return came working in Tom Strong's Terrific Tales with Alan Moores mentor (but no relation) Steve Moore on Jonni Future. Again getting to draw everything he loved but with the added selling point of Cheesecake and T&A. For me this part of Art Adams' repertoire has had is currency devalued by the sheer number of imitators of his women. While Adams seems to have strived to toe that fine line between realistic and cartoony, caricature and accuracy, most of his copiers don't have the good taste to know where it lies.

Jonni Future wasn't a gripping character but the stories were certainly beautiful, Adams' line benefiting from a lavish top end colour job.
Today you can See Art Adams' work on Ultimate X, a series written by his brief Hulk collaborator, Jeph Loeb. Loeb writes "to the strengths" of the artists he works with which is another wasy of saying he exploits what they're popular for and in know way pushes them to do anything new or challenging (exhibit A above: what could be cooler than someone else with Wolverine's claws). This means that that while the book is certainly very pretty, for me it lacks the soul and love of Monkeyman & O'Brien.
nb: I'll still end up buying it in some form.

Today if you want proof that while the comic output seems thin on the ground Adams is still in fact pretty prolific you only need a quick Google image search to see the vast number of comissions and covers he's done over the years, just a few found examples below:
Next up..."B"


Piperson said...

I happened to be actively collecting comics at the time of the Longshot mini series so I got to get in on the ground floor of Art Adams career. I remember really liking the series and eagerly anticipating future works by him. The high point of his career for me was the New Mutants special #1. Nobody had illustrated the mutants quite like that before or since. In fact Adams picture of Wolverine became kind of iconic and was used often in ads of comic stores (check out the Overstreet of the time). The New Mutants special #1 was the first of a 2 parter that would conclude in an X-Men annual. I can remember waiting for what seemed like over a year for that dang annual! I had given up on it ever coming it by the time it did, but when it did, Adams exquisite art made it all worth while. One thing that made Adams work so special was his seemingly endless innovations. It seemed in those 2 mutant books Adams designed countless unbelievably beautiful new costumes. Later you would see Lee/Liefeld doing the same sort of invention on their mutant books. the last thing I remember him doing before I stopped collecting around 1990 was a DC Superman book about a werewolf. It was OK but not as good as his older books I thought.

Will Shyne said...

I enjoy all the stuff I got going backwards too. In the interest of full disclosure, the X-Babies did wonders for 15/16 year old me )X-Men robots!!?!?!).
That "Wolverine walking towards you menacingly" image that was all over ads and shops was great too!
Even as I was writing the post I was thinking "I should go back to Longshot" but I probably shouldn't.
I just wish Adams was getting some of the love that is evident in his comissions into some project more suited to him than his current people in the city in street wear X book (though that's better than just covers).
Adams was definitely the spitirual father of the 90s (so grandfather to the noughties?). His influence was everywhere, between him Byrne and Golden.

David N said...

Loved him from Longshot on, though I find him a little stiff and pedantic nowadays. In the 90s, anything drawn by AA was an event.